By Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA
Feb. 1, 2023
Movies can help you escape into another world, but they also can provide insights to help you better manage this world, including your practice.
Being a big fan of movies since I was a small boy, I thought it might be appropriate to take what we see on the big screen and apply it to the running of our optometric practices. As practice owners and entrepreneurs, we all can use a little inspiration from time to time. What better way to get that inspiration than from the silver screen. Inspiration can come from serious dramas such as “The Godfather” to silly and fun movies like “Finding Nemo.” So, what can we learn from films and how can movie quotes get us through each day? Here are some examples.
“The key to this business is personal relationships.” — Dicky Fox, Jerry Maguire (1996)
I bet you thought I would use the more famous line from this movie, “Show me the money!!!” That quote also could be applied to running a practice. However, even though that is the most quoted line from the film, the one above is more important to running a practice. Relationships are generally the most important factor in running a business, and an optometric practice is no different. “Relationships” refer to those with patients, other doctors or practice partners, and, most essentially, your staff.
Building relationships with patients is important because you want them to view you and your practice as the place to go for all things eyecare. You need to establish yourself and the practice as a resource for all their eyecare needs, examinations, spectacles, contact lenses, medical treatment, and most importantly, education. If you can establish yourself as the expert in these areas, they are less likely to go elsewhere, even if price is a concern.
Relationships with the other doctors and doctor-business partners is important because everyone should be on the same page and working toward the same goal. Goals can be different from one doctor to another, but as a group, you should present a united front to your patients and staff.
Finally, and most critically, you need to have a good relationship with your staff. A patient’s first encounter with the practice is usually with a staff member, and patients usually spend more time with staff than they do with you. You need to have great people in place to build a great practice. If the staff is subpar, you’re going to have a much more difficult time building and maintaining an exceptional practice. Hire right, train right and keep training.
“Smile, it enhances your face value” — Truvy Jones, Steel Magnolias (1989)
A smile is very welcoming to those you encounter, whether it be patients, other doctors or staff. It’s not always easy to do, especially on a day when you had three patients in a row wanting their prescription rechecked. Yet smiles can put patients at ease, staff at ease, and best of all, they are free. Smile away.
“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.” — Dory, Finding Nemo (2003)
You are going to have good days and bad days in your practice. On the good days it’s easy – you had a record collection day, a patient tells you your practice is the best they’ve ever been to, all the staff show up and are on time. Those days are easy. It’s the other days – a patient’s glasses order was lost, that patient is coming in again for the third recheck of their contact lenses, two staff members call in sick – it’s those days when you need to just keep swimming.
Perseverance is an appropriate term for this. The ability to push through the frustrations and fears that we face on those days is what eventually enables us to move our practices forward, and creates an environment patients and employees want to come to.
“Two little mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit, and he struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.” — Frank Abagnale Sr, Catch Me if You Can (2002)
This quote mirrors the previous, and the visual it evokes for me hits home. There are those days when it just seems like I’m spinning my wheels, yet for Frank, he knew that if he quit, he would get nowhere and that motivated him to be that second mouse. If we do enough churning, eventually it leads to solid footing for us and our practices to move forward.
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“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I must leave now. Mr. Corleone insists on hearing bad news as soon as possible.” — Tom Hagen, The Godfather (1972)
One of the things that was instrumental in building our practice was feedback, both good and bad. This quote from “The Godfather” resonates deeply with my experience as a practice owner. Feedback is critical to any business. Why does it seem I get a request for 10 surveys per day asking me how my last encounter was at a particular business? Any good business wants to know what they did well and what could have been better, so they can improve their service to their customers.
For us, that was patients being attentively listened to, not only by the doctor, but also by the staff. Feedback for us was also provided by those darn surveys – yes, we requested patients give us feedback. A topic at every weekly staff meeting was the feedback we received that week.
Also important in the above quote is the timing of the feedback. To Tom Hagen’s point, we want to act on something as soon as possible. Don’t let problems linger.
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” – Jimmy Dugan, A League of their Own (1992) This final quote is a great way to describe practice owners and what they go through every day. Having established, built, managed, grown, laughed and cried over 35 years of optometric practice ownership, this says it all for me. Many of my colleagues feel the same way.
What we do is not easy. It takes time. It takes grit. It takes stick-to-it-ness, and in the end, it somehow seems to be worth it. That’s why not every optometrist owns a practice. I think that’s not a bad thing – it’s what makes it great.